Hi! I’m Nerd in the Brain, and I am ever so excited to be sharing some spooky science here on Part Time Monster. 😀 (Thank you to one of my very favorite monsters for hosting today’s science-y fun!)
Fear not! I’m going to teach you how to tame the FrankenPickle and make him your friend. 🙂
Before we get started, I want to share some rather serious warnings:
This activity involves the use of electricity. If you don’t follow instructions carefully, chances are high that you will end up sad. This activity is NOT for little ones. (Though they would probably love to see it demonstrated by an adult.) Any person who frequently says, “Hey, y’all, watch this!” or, “You know what would be really funny?” should be supervised while performing this activity. (Yes, that does technically mean that I needed supervision.) 😉 Be careful and use your science brain.
Okay, now that I’m certain everyone will be safe, I’ll guide you through your quest to FrankenPickle’s lair.
Here are the items you will need to gather in order to find the beast within what you thought was an ordinary sidekick to your favorite sandwich:
- a ceramic plate (or some other surface that doesn’t conduct electricity very well)
- an ordinary, nothing-special-about-it extension cord
- two nails (make sure that they’re at least 2″ long…2.5″ or 3″ is even better)
- wire strippers
- electrical tape
- a dill pickle, of course
Once you have all of your supplies gathered, you’re ready to go. Here’s what to do…
Step 1: Identify the plug-into-the-wall bit of your extension cord. What you want to do with this part is simple…leave it alone. Do not cut it, strip it, tape it, or mess with it. And for the sake of all that’s good in the world, DO NOT plug it in yet.
Step 2: Identify the gets-things-plugged-into-it bit of your extension cord. Once you find it, head to step 3. 😉
Step 3: Ruthlessly and without mercy, murder the end of the cord you found in step 2. Just cut its little head right off. Like so:
Step 4: Throw away the gets-things-plugged-into-it bit that you just cut off. It is no longer of any use to you. Now take your scissors and make a small gentle snip in the middle of the cord…right there on that line that runs the length of the cord.
Step 5: After using the scissors to get things started, you should be able to pull the two sections of cord apart. Don’t get too rambunctious though! You only want to separate about 8″ of the cord. It should look something like this:
Step 6: Now you’ll use your wire strippers to very carefully strip the coating off of about 4″ of both the ends you just separated. (Try very hard not to cut any of the dainty little wires.)
Step 7: Wrap about 2″ of wire from one of the sections around the top half of a nail. Repeat with the other section and the second nail. (I find it’s easier to wrangle all of those little wires if you twist them a few times first.)
Step 8: Cover the wire-wrapped section of each nail with electrical tape. This helps hold things in place…and that helps avoid catastrophe.
Step 9: This is where things really start to get fun! Place a pickle on the plate, and insert one nail into each end of the pickle. (Think corn-on-the-cob style!) This FrankenPickle is really starting to happen now!
Step 10: And now comes that last magical step…you are so close to coming face to face with FrankenPickle. Plug the extension cord in and wait for the wondrous event to happen:
Step 11: Very enthusiastically yell, “It’s ALIVE! It’s ALIVE!”
Notes: When you first plug the cord in to an outlet, things will start to sizzle and pop and smoke. Don’t be alarmed…that’s normal. After just a couple of seconds, your pickle will develop a majestic glow. DO NOT touch the pickle or the nails. To stop the whole process, unplug the extension cord from the wall. I’ve never let this go for more than a few seconds…I am uncertain of the results of leaving the pickle plugged in for longer than that. (I totally just used the phrase “leaving the pickle plugged in”…that is just fantastic.)
And here are a couple of shots from a different FrankenPickle. I love how it starts with a soft glow and then quickly intensifies. 🙂
If you’re looking to turn this into an actual science lesson, there are tons of discussions to be had! Of course, you have your basic review of conductivity and electrons zipping around and whatnot, but if you want to explore things further, you could try this same activity with a lemon or other fruit. Did it work? Why or why not? Or you may want to explore why the pickle only glows on one side. Or maybe you’ll be braver than I am and see what happens if you let the electricity keep flowing for more than a few seconds at a time. (Of course, remember to be safe. I don’t know for certain if a pickle can catch on fire or not, but be prepared for that reality.)
I do hope you enjoyed your encounter with FrankenPickle!
Do you think you’ll be hosting any glowing pickles at your home? Do you have other science activities you like to do for Halloween?